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Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med. 2010 Nov-Dec;2(6):670-82. doi: 10.1002/wsbm.94.

Systems analysis of salivary gland development and disease.

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Biological Sciences, University at Albany, State University of New York, Albany, NY, USA.

Erratum in

  • Wiley Interdiscip Rev Syst Biol Med. 2011 May-Jun;3(3):377.


Branching morphogenesis is a crucial developmental process in which vertebrate organs generate extensive epithelial surface area while retaining a compact size. In the vertebrate submandibular salivary gland, branching morphogenesis is crucial for the generation of the large surface area necessary to produce sufficient saliva. However, in many salivary gland diseases, saliva-producing acinar cells are destroyed, resulting in dry mouth and secondary health conditions. Systems-based approaches can provide insights into understanding salivary gland development, function, and disease. The traditional approach to understanding these processes is the identification of molecular signals using reductionist approaches; we review current progress with such methods in understanding salivary gland development. Taking a more global approach, multiple groups are currently profiling the transcriptome, the proteome, and other 'omes' in both developing mouse tissues and in human patient samples. Computational methods have been successful in deciphering large data sets, and mathematical models are starting to make predictions regarding the contribution of molecules to the physical processes of morphogenesis and cellular function. A challenge for the future will be to establish comprehensive, publicly accessible salivary gland databases spanning the full range of genes and proteins; plans are underway to provide these resources to researchers in centralized repositories. The greatest challenge for the future will be to develop realistic models that integrate multiple types of data to both describe and predict embryonic development and disease pathogenesis.

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